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White Blotches on the Teeth

By Heather Rutherford ; Updated August 14, 2017

White blotches on your teeth can be disconcerting. While you know to expect some brown or yellow surface stains on your teeth from time to time, and you know how to treat them, nobody seems to talk about white blotches. These marks are not a direct indication of overall ill health, but you should not ignore them as they can have serious implications on your dental health.

Origin of White Blotches

White blotches on teeth can be caused by a condition called fluorosis, which is most prominent in children but occasionally is seen in adults and occurs when you ingest too much fluoride. Fluoride is commonly added to public drinking water to prevent cavities. For adults, the main culprit of white blotches is a loss of mineralization in the teeth, according to Dr. Ellis Phillips, and can happen when too much acid from beverages, plaque or even acid reflux comes in contact with your teeth. This often occurs after having braces removed or after using whitening materials, which are very acidic.

Potential Problems

While white blotches on the teeth seem less harmful than yellow teeth, this is not necessarily true. Fluorosis is typically harmless, but there are severe cases in which a child's teeth develop deep pits and turn brown with white spots. With white blotches caused by enamel demineralization, you are seeing the first stages of tooth decay. If left alone, a cavity eventually will occur.

Risk Factors

Enamel fluorosis typically occurs to children under 8, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and those children who frequently drink fluoridated water are at a heightened risk of developing white spots on their teeth. As an adult, you might be prone to demineralization if you drink highly acidic beverages, have acid reflux, are bulimic, or have poor dental hygiene habits.

Treat and Protect

Removal of white stains is not as simple as removing surface stains. With fluorosis, once the fluoride is in the tooth, it is permanent, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With enamel demineralization, you need to take steps to avoid further erosion of the tooth or decay will likely set in. Both conditions warrant a visit to the dentist, who can help to keep your teeth healthy and offer cosmetic fixes if appropriate.

Fluoride Dos and Don'ts

To prevent fluorosis, monitor your child's intake of fluoride. Since most public water contains fluoride this might mean that you need to buy non-fluoridated water to alternate with tap water. To prevent demineralization, follow the American Dental Association’s guidelines to prevent tooth decay: Brush teeth twice daily, floss daily, visit your dentist regularly and eat a well-balanced diet.

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